For twenty-seven weeks we have been praying our theology.
It started, as some ideas do, with a personal meltdown. I was driving to work, mentally rehearsing what had been done, and what hadn’t. There were gaps in between my hopes and the results I felt I could get by myself. Those gaps were large. Gaping, even. And yet, if I am the youth minister, doesn’t the burden of youth ministry fall on me and me only?
I remember the stop sign I was at when it hit me, “No. It depends on God. And you are not alone.”
I went to work and emailed an invitation to mothers of private, public and homeschoolers, whose children ranged in grades from 6th to college and beyond.
The email title: I am on your side! (2.5 minutes to read)
The email content: I have done all I can do by myself and I’m sorry for not being more inclusive from the beginning. It is God who does the work. And besides, we don’t need more programming. We need spiritual transformation. Will you pray for this with me?
Most didn’t answer. But six did. And we have been battling it out for the hearts and lives of our students in prayer together for twenty-seven weeks since. By the time this article is published we will have prayed for thirty-two weeks. As Methodists, we have a system. Make that a method. Here it is:
Every Monday I send out an email to the faithful six. The email has a quick update on remarkable things in the youth group. Sometimes there is nothing to remark on, in which case I jump straight to the verse and prayer for the week. Long ago I received the book, Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 52 Prayers for Today by Paul Chilcote and this has been my go-to resource.
Each chapter has a single scripture, a prayer, and a hymn focused on a particular element of our Wesleyan theology taken from John Wesley’s sermons. Honestly, in using this book in this context I skip the hymn and shorten the prayers. Shortened prayers are still prayers though, and we are seeing slow transformation in formerly rock-hard, seemingly impenetrable areas of our youth group as we pray.
For me, as a leader, this prayer group, though invaluable, could easily become “just another thing” adding responsibility to my plate. That’s where this resource is so valuable. These prayers are not my words. This ministry is not my ministry. None of this, in fact, is about me at all.
As a group, these six moms and I pray words written by Paul Chilcote, inspired by John Wesley, to our good God, together. Every semester or so we gather in one of the youth rooms, eat sandwiches, and exchange hopes and dreams in the rooms that their daughters meet in weekly. We pray for each other and we pray for our girls. For our boys. For real friendship and for hearts that say yes to Jesus. For all the impossible things. We turn to God, who holds the whole world in his hands. We look to him for answers, we hand off the burden, and we watch with delight as God works among us.